According to Flyglobal statistics, there were 137 business jets based in Saudi Arabia in 2010. However, Ali Al Naqbi, founding chairman of the Middle East Business Aviation Association, believes that by “rough estimate,” the number may be as high as 160 by now.
Using the lower number, it is estimated that this breaks down into 22 entry-level or light jets, 71 midsize jets, and 44 long-range business jets. Al Naqbi said that there is a “fair presence of both flight departments and management companies” operating these aircraft, however, the trend is shifting in favor of the latter among small fleet owners for “economic reasons,” specifically realizing income from chartering when the equipment is not in use by owners.
Among established charter operators, Al Naqbi identified Mid East Jet, NasJet, Saad Air, Saudi HEMS, and Saudi Private Aviation. Across the country, there are some 38 FBO-like ground support operations and a handful of maintenance/repair stations, including Alsalam Aircraft Company, Arabasco, Saudi Private Aviation Engineering and Maintenance, and Wallan Aviation.
While Saudi Arabia is a major player in Middle East business aviation, Al Naqbi believes that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is overtaking the Kingdom in terms of the number of based aircraft and volume of activity. However, he said, “Saudi Arabia will continue to play a leading role with the progressive measures initiated by the government to promote the growth of business and private aviation.”